The Christmas tree may or may not still be up as customs regarding the not-so-fun ritual of dismantling the premier of Christmas decorations vary from family to family. That’s a nice way of saying some people have major issues unearthing the time and energy for this thankless task. My husband is the subtle type. After about January 3, he unplugs the lights on the tree. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t take the initiative to undecorate the tree. He simply pulls the plug.
I love all things Christmas—the baking, shopping, entertaining, decorating—all of it. That’s why it literally pains me that some people associate the word SURVIVED with Christmas or the more general term “the holidays”. As if Christmas and New Year’s were events to endure, to dread like a hurricane or drought or some other sort of devastating occurrence.
Christmas should be a joyous occasion, a looked-forward-to season anticipated with enthusiasm and excitement. A time to make cherished memories.
Then why, oh why, do so many people, by December 26, feel as if they’ve just endured another Christmas?
I’ll admit December was pretty busy around our place this year. But I expected it to be kind of crazy, and I prepared myself—mostly mentally—for the anticipated hecticness. And I was tired by December 26, but it was a happy, satisfied tired. Everything went well, and I felt really good about Christmas 2014.
A few years ago my December wasn’t going so well. The more I thought about all I had yet to do, the nearer I came to a panic-induced meltdown. I was forced to evaluate the necessity of each and every item on my overly looooong to-do list. What could I cross off the list without ruining Christmas? What would I miss on such a massive scale that it had to somehow be squeezed in?
I decided I couldn’t bear to skip our annual Christmas card/picture although if the newsy letter to accompany it had to be axed this once, I’d still live. I baked fewer batches of cookies and nixed a couple other things that slip my mind now. Christmas happened as planned, for the most part, and in no way was it ruined.
Despite the gray hairs, the near meltdown reinforced several truths.
- There are only so many hours in a day. Even in December.
- Sleep needs to occur in every 24 hour period. Even in December.
- Expectations can easily swell to an impossible level. Especially in December.
Many busy holiday seasons have led me to several time/energy/sanity saving conclusions.
- SHOPPING: The earlier I begin shopping, the better. Even though I enjoy shopping, it’s time consuming so I purchased about 80% of my gifts online this year. That made shopping for the other 20% a piece of cake.
- DECORATING: The earlier I tackle decorating the house the better—except we don’t do ANY Christmas before Thanksgiving. So if I get on it right after Thanksgiving and don’t dawdle, I can cross DECORATING off my list AND enjoy the pretty decorations the entire month. I leave my collection of snowmen up throughout the winter which means I have half as much to take down after Christmas AND the house isn’t so bare during the cold, dreary months.
- BAKING: I love to give homemade goodies to friends, co-workers and family. I learned to spread the gifting throughout the month rather than try to make and distribute it ALL in the couple days before the 25th. We love decorated sugar cookies, but I limit the shapes to stars and bells with ONE shade of frosting and quickly added colorful sprinkles—no intricate decorating. It’s the taste that counts, right?
- ENTERTAINING: We host several gatherings each Christmas, often with similar menus from year-to-year. So I begin stocking up on ingredients, paper products, etc., as early as October when I spot items on sale. As some point, I take an inventory, make a HUGE list of needed items for each menu, then hit the store. Last second trips to the grocery are maddening and the store in my small town closes at 10 pm, and I’m a night owl, so planning ahead is a necessity.
- PLANNING: It ALWAYS takes longer than you anticipate to make that special dish or the entire meal, detail the bathroom or wax the floor. This is a hard one for me. Too often when I thought I allowed plenty of time, in reality I finished like 94 seconds before the doorbell rang. Talk about stressful. Start EARLY… have a bit of time to relax—I’m having that engraved on a nice refrigerator magnet. Do you want one too???
- EXPECTATIONS: Please promise not to tell my husband this one, okay? Sometimes my expectations, in hind sight, were ridiculously unrealistic. Ow… that’s painful to even type. But it’s true. I’m learning—really I am—but it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of Christmas and over schedule myself. Nothing robs the joy from the season like being totally exhausted. Reign in your expectations and let yourself relax at least a little.
As I’m enjoying the slower pace of a cold Indiana January, I’ve made some notes from Christmas 2014 to help me with planning and preparing for Christmas 2015. While the memories are still somewhat fresh, why don’t you do the same. And go on record by sharing in the comments at least ONE thing you want to do differently next Christmas.